A Love Without Fear
“Love is supposed to be based on trust, and trust on love. It’s something rare and beautiful when people can confide in each other without fearing what the other person will think.” ~ E.A. Bucchianeri
More thoughts on love in today’s 1st Reading (1 John 4:11-18) wherein John challenges us to love each other in a way that mirrors God‘s love for us. A tall order for sure, but John reminds us that God, by virtue of the fact that he sent his son Jesus into the world as Savior, has literally given unto us his very spirit in order to do so.
This is where the real presence of the Eucharist takes center stage. Whereas one might consider the very idea of loving our neighbor with the same ardor and fervor that God has lavished upon us to be a noble gesture, an admirable platitude, or simply impossible, with the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus serving as our sustenance, his precious blood coursing through our veins, is anything impossible?
“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him,”John goes on to say in reinforcing fashion, a prevailing message in virtually all of his writings. “In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.”
In John’s estimation, honing our ability to love, cultivating a perfect love during our time spent on Earth, would appear to be one of our most critical tasks. For who among us would want to stand before Jesus on that day of judgement with anything short of full and total confidence, the confidence that John promises to those who remain in God?
For that matter, who wouldn’t desire an utterly fearless relationship with God, one completely devoid of angst, uncertainly or dread as it relates to punishment, particularly that of the eternal variety? How does one go about cultivating that mindset? Some of the most faithful people I know, those who I aspire to emulate, struggle with that. Yet as John tells us “there is no fear in love,” instead perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.”
John will point out in tomorrow’s passage (1 John 4:19-5:4) that “the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.” So obedience to the commandments is our starting point with regard to fostering perfect and fearless love for God. By living a life rooted in the commandments, we return the love of God back to Him by freely allowing Him to remain in us.
The mere thought of God’s judgment can at times be harrowing, there’s no question about it. But while we approach it with reverent fear, we do so with complete and total confidence in God’s love and mercy as well. The Gospels declare that our guilt has been atoned for, the law has been fulfilled. So we are freed from the burden of trying to appease the judgment we feel. In Christ the ultimate demand has been met, the deepest judgment has been satisfied. The atonement of Christ frees us from the fear of judgment. Nonetheless it is our proper response to this gift, made manifest in the way we share Jesus’ fearless love for us with others, that is so vital.
Oftentimes a student will drown in fear and anxiety over their final exam, knowing that they are unprepared. Those students who have been diligent in their preparation on the other hand know what is required; they prepare, they do the work, and they succeed, oftentimes with relative ease due to their well-founded confidence. We too must prepare. We do so by familiarizing ourselves with and subsequently living God’s word, for it will teach us everything we need to know for when that day of judgement arrives. Scripture, the Sacraments, a vibrant prayer life, celebrating the Mass as often as possible, devotion to Mary. These are the building blocks, and all are readily available to those who seek them. For as Saint Thalassios of Libya once said, “initially our search for wisdom is prompted by fear; but as we attain our goal we are led forward by love.”
May wisdom and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit be ours today and always.